Michael S. Harper


Acclaimed poet and teacher Michael S. Harper was born in 1938, in Brooklyn, New York. He earned his BA and MA from California State University and his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Known for his innovative use of jazz rhythms, cultural allusion, historical referent, and personal narrative, Harper was “a deeply complex poet whose mission is to unite the fractured, inhumane technologies of our time with the abiding deep well of Negro folk traditions,” wrote John Callahan in the New Republic. Poetry reviewer Paul Breslin noted that Harper did this by drawing “upon black history, literature, and myth.” However, Harper was distinctive in that he often sought to bridge the traditional separation between black America and white America, writing poems that speak across the divide and draw upon elements of the racial, historical, and personal past of all Americans. Source 

Makin' Jump Shots

He waltzes into the lane

’cross the free-throw line,

fakes a drive, pivots,

floats from the asphalt turf

in an arc of black light,

and sinks two into the chains.


One on one he fakes

down the main, passes

into the free lane

and hits the chains.


A sniff in the fallen air—

he stuffs it through the chains

riding high:

“traveling” someone calls—

and he laughs, stepping

to a silent beat, gliding

as he sinks two into the chains.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Music & Sports

Literary Devices:


the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses

Sensory Detail

words used to invoke the five senses (vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell)